The International Women’s Boxing Hall of Fame has announced the 2018 inductees. The eight honorees include five retired boxers, a referee, a boxing judge and a journalist. The fighters include Myriam Lamare, Belinda Laracuente, Jessica Rakoczy, Mary Jo Sanders and Vonda Ward; the boxing judge is Julie Lederman, the referee, honored posthumously, is Belle Martell and the journalist, the first male ever so honored, is Bernie McCoy.
The 2018 inductees bring the five-year IWBHF total to thirty-seven. The Hall was conceived and founded in 2014 by Sue Fox, publisher and editor of WBAN, the longtime site of record for the sport of Women’s boxing. WBAN, for over two decades, has spotlighted and brought awareness to the sport of female boxing and five years ago, Fox crystallized that focus with the establishment a Hall of Fame, centered solely on the sport.
The five boxers being honored represent headline fighters from the past two decades in the sport and represented an era when the best of the female boxers, more often than not, were matched with other top fighters in their weight class. The five inductees represent countries ranging from France, Puerto Rico and Canada and include two U.S. athletes, an indication of the burgeoning international flavor into which the sport has evolved.
Myriam Lamare epitomized the noun “fighter.” She had one gear, “all out” and knew only one direction, “straight ahead.” It is not an overstatement to call her two bouts with Anne Sophie Mathis fights that served to ignite interest in the sport of female boxing in Europe. Lamare fought 177 rounds over her career and was in the ring with every top boxer in the sport, ranging from Mathis to Holm to Braekus.
Belinda Laracuente set the bar high for a “go anywhere, fight anyone” reputation. The Puerto Rican born boxer fought every good fighter in the sport, including Christy Martin, Sumya Anani and Holly Holm in this country and Myriam Lamare in France, Esther Phiri in Zambia, Duda Yankovich in Brazil, Jelena Mrdjenovich in Canada and Emiko Raika in Japan. It was said that Laracuente, in the ring, had every move in the book along with some that were only in rare editions.
Jessica Rakoczy came out of Hamilton, Ontario and followed the pattern of the other inductees in looking up the rankings for opponents, fighting Layla McCarter, Jenifer Alcon and Jane Couch. But it was her 2007 loss to Ann Marie Saccurato that is often talked about when the subject is “best fights, ever,” in the sport. For Rakoczy, the bout was a text book example of the ring adage that even in defeat, the “good ones” often bring out the best in themselves and their sport.
Mary Jo Sanders had twenty-five wins over a sterling career coming out of the quintessential fight town of Detroit. She also had a loss and a draw on her record, both against the “face” of the sport, at the time, Holly Holm. The Holm bouts were the highlights of a career for a very fundamentally skilled fighter who had big wins against Layla McCarter and Chevelle Hallback.
Vonda Ward might well be considered the best all-around female athlete ever to box professionally. She was an outstanding high school basketball player in Cleveland before matriculating to the University of Tennessee to play for legendary coach Pat Summitt. In the ring, Ward compiled an estimable 23-1 record, beating heavyweight fighters such as Carleton Ewell, Martha Salazar and Marsha Valley, losing only to highly regarded Ann Wolfe.
Julie Lederman grew up in a boxing household. As such, it is fair to assume she was probably exposed to the sport from a young age. Those two circumstances may have had something to do with her gravitating to the sport as a boxing judge. Those two circumstances have nothing to do with her becoming one of the top officials in the NYSAC. Similar to the fighters honored by the IWBHF, she is a very good boxing judge, not a very good female boxing judge; she is also not a very good judge with a well- known last name. She is a very good judge well worthy of induction into the IWBHF.
Belle Martell, who is honored with induction posthumously, was the first female referee licensed in California in April,1940. She continued, along with her husband, Art, to be a factor in boxing for the following two decades serving also as an active promoter in the state’s amateur ranks along with being a highly-sought after ring announcer.
Bernie McCoy began writing while in the Army, serving with the Armed Forces Press Service. Upon discharge, he alternated between advertising (copywriting for the Reynolds Tobacco and Coca-Cola accounts) and the newspaper business (sports writing in St. Louis, New Orleans and various New York suburban papers) before retiring from two decades as part of the Media department at Pepsi Cola. Subsequently, he has written extensively about Women’s boxing for a number of Internet sites, most notably, WBAN. Founder and publisher, Sue Fox remarked “while always a staunch advocate and strong supporter of the sport, (McCoy) never pulled his punches in his writing.”
While the fifth class of the IWBHF may be slightly more diverse than previous groups, including three “non-participant” inductees, this ground breaking enterprise continues to forge ahead with its focus and mission, to provide recognition to a sport and it’s integral figures, past and present, who have contributed to the progress thus far achieved and to the future growth of the sport and it’s athletes.